Whether it’s difficulty with getting comfortable or insomnia, trying to get a good nights rest before your baby arrives can be challenging.

Sleeping when pregnant

It is a fact of life that you will not get a good nights rest for a while after you bring your baby home. However, the lack of zzz’s starts well before then for most pregnant women.

If you are pregnant and are having problems sleeping for any reason, we hope we can give you some good ideas that will help.

This article focuses on the first 6 reasons, our next article will discuss the remaining 6.

Why Can’t You Sleep?

There are a number of reasons why you may find it hard to sleep. It can begin early in pregnancy too, not just towards the end when you can’t find any position that feels right.

First, let’s explore the possible reasons why you can’t sleep well. The most common reasons include:

  • Unable to find a comfortable position due to aches and pains of pregnancy
  • Having to pee…often
  • Leg cramps
  • RLS – Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Heartburn and indigestion
  • Sleep apnea
  • Snoring
  • Nasal congestion
  • Insomnia
  • Sleep walking
  • Fatigue
  • Crazy dreams

You may have only one of these issues, or have several of them. You may also notice that some of these symptoms will pass only to find that you start to experience another one. They are all part of being pregnant and are quite normal. However, there are things you can do to alleviate and help some of these sleep problems.

Sleep Solutions While Pregnant

Many of the difficulties with sleep pregnant women experience are the body’s way of preparing them for the lack of sleep once their baby is born. However, this is little consolation when you’re pregnant and can’t sleep. It is literally exhausting trying to function while sleep deprived. So while these are symptoms of being pregnant, there are things you can do to alleviate some of them, or at least make them better.

Let’s discuss 6 of them one at a time and the other 6 in our next article:

Unable to find a comfortable position due to aches and pains of pregnancy – this is generally a problem during the second and third trimesters but can be felt at any time during pregnancy. Prior to getting pregnant, you had a perfect position to sleep in: on your back, on your stomach. But as your baby and uterus grow, laying on either your back or stomach gets tricky. And past your first trimester, it’s not recommended to sleep on your back as the weight will press on your vena cava, the main vein that carries blood back to your heart from the lower parts of your body. This can interfere with your circulation and even cause you to feel light-headed when laying down. The solution – sleep on your side, preferably your left side. This will make things easier on your circulatory system and is also safer for your baby. And bring on the pillows. Place them anywhere underneath your arms, legs, tummy, back, and definitely try between your knees.

Having to pee…often – This is typically an issue during the first and third trimesters. At first it is primarily due to increases in hormones, progesterone to be precise. Also, your kidneys begin filtering 50% more blood, which in turn means more urine. By your third trimester, the weight of your uterus literally pushes down on your bladder, causing you to go more frequently. The solution – be sure to drink enough throughout the day, but cut back in the evening, preferably 2 hours before you go to bed. Also, get a night light. That way when you do get up to go, you don’t switch on the light causing you to wake up more and may make going back to sleep more difficult.

Leg cramps – Typically begins to occur at the halfway point in pregnancy. There are a number ideas as to what cause them, but it’s still not exactly apparent what causes leg cramps. One idea is that the extra weight may put pressure and fatigue on the blood vessels in the legs. The solution – try upping your intake of both calcium and magnesium, you may want to get a recommended amount from your doctor to be safe. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and be sure to stretch your legs. If you stand a lot for work, try wearing support hose. If pain and/or swelling occur with the cramp, or the pain lasts longer than normal, notify your doctor as these could be signs of a blood clot.

RLS – Restless Leg Syndrome – This is generally an issue in the third trimester, but can happen at other times in pregnancy. As many as 15% of pregnant women experience this, but it’s still unsure as to what causes it. It is a very uncomfortable, crawling or tingling sensation in the legs combined with the urge to move them. The solution – ask your doctor to test you for iron and folate deficiencies. If your levels are low, boosting up on these may help but be sure to consult your doctor first. Get plenty of the essential nutrients every day, try to get some exercise, and try to avoid caffeine.

Heartburn and indigestion – You may experience this anytime during your pregnancy. It may be due to hormones, which can relax the muscles in your esophagus that keep the acid in your stomach. The further along you progress in your pregnancy, the bigger your baby and uterus become. In your third trimester your stomach literally gets pushed upwards and this can cause the problem too. Many women complain that is becomes worse when laying down. The solution – there are over-the-counter medicines that can reduce heartburn and indigestion. Ask your doctor which one is safe for you to use. Also, avoid eating foods that contribute to heartburn such as spicy and citrus foods. Instead eat things low in acid such as pretzels, bread, potatoes, green beans, carrots, peas, bananas, apples, and pears.

Sleep apnea – Once again, you can thank hormones for your sleep apnea. They can congest the mucous membranes in the upper airway. It can be more common in pregnant women that have problems with high blood pressure or gestational diabetes, however, these don’t seem to be a cause of the problem. Also, gaining excessive weight while pregnant contribute to the issue. The solution – while you can’t go on a diet while pregnant, you can try and cut back on the empty or extra calories you don’t need. Also, talk to your doctor about your sleep apnea. He or she will likely check you for high blood pressure or gestational diabetes.

We will discuss the remaining 6 reasons in our next article.

Posted by Christiane Grau

One Comment

  1. […] our first article, How to Sleep When Pregnant – Sleep Solutions, we focused on the first 6 reasons sleep may be eluding you and then some solutions to each of the […]


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